Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Christmas Spirit

On Tuesday, three days before Christmas, my wallet was stolen at my work between the hours of 2-4pm. Inside my wallet was $225 of my hard earned money. I don't LOVE my job (although I do love my co-workers) and I definitely don't want to be a server for much longer, but I work hard and I earn every penny I make. Those pennies weren't for me and I didn't plan on hitting the bars or buying expensive new shoes, although both are things I used to be able to afford. This new life, this meager life that is the result of a poor economy, lay-offs and circumstance, doesn't allow for much "fluff" or extravagance. This is alright with me. After all, since my then-husband decided to live in 2008 I have learned to live with little material belongings, small paychecks and in physical places I never wished to be. No, material things don't float my boat and they are not a deal breaker for a happy life. I have had far more and far less than I have at this particular moment in time and I find that both humbling and scary.

What I do hold dear to my heart, over designer handbags and a condo of my own in the city, are my family and friends. Many people only think of loved ones and truly show them how much they care around the holidays. This is not my case. As anyone who knows me well could tell you, I am extremely close to my family and friends. I take pride in working hard at staying in touch and my feelings for my loved ones are usually found right on the sleeve of my non-designer shirt. Perhaps, because this year I began to emerge from the darkness that is divorce or maybe because cancer came knocking on our family's door, I felt the need to shout from the rooftops and put on the big screen how much these people mean to me. And the thief almost took this possibility away.

It is no surprise to anyone in the real world how little servers in a restaurant make. Sure, tips can really add up, but I work minimum hours and haven't been trained to work the busy dinner shifts. I can put in a twelve hour day with only one break and barely make over $100 in tips. Depressing? Sure. What I have to do right now to stay afloat? Definitely. I'm not embarrassed to admit that I spent much of Tuesday night in the upstairs bathroom at work crying my eyes out over the lost cash. I wanted to get even, I wanted to know who took is and I wanted revenge. It took all my training in Buddhism (this consists of the reading of several books upon the commencement of my divorce) to calm down and LET IT GO! Letting go can sometimes be the hardest part.

The details are not important and I will leave the names anonymous, but by the time I left work the following night, co-workers and managers alike had "gifted" me much of my lost money back. I was overwhelmed, honored and humbled. Just when it is so easy to believe in the bad in people, others show you that the human spirit is indeed good and kind.

With my meager amount of cash to spread between my immediate family members, I struggled with what to buy such amazing people, especially my parents. The day before Christmas Eve my dad found out that the pathology tests on the tissue taken from his second surgery was clear of cancer. How can a new tie or a gift card suffice for someone who is battling, and apparently winning, the fight against cancer? And for that matter, what do you buy the woman, the wife, behind the man that has always been the rock in our family even though we may not see her in that light. Impossible gifts for remarkable people.....

Below is what I decided on for the two most important people in my life. Of course there were functional gifts given like books and clothes, but these gifts spoke to the true essence of family and Christmas.
Willow Tree wooden angels are a beautiful collection of collectible angels that cover themes from friendship, to motherhood, to grief. I have received two Willow Tree angels in my life as gifts; one was for the spirit of a teacher when I got my first teaching job and one was for new home owners when my ex and I purchased our first home. They are faceless, but they speak volumes. Each one comes with a story and a quote, depending on what angel they are.

On the left is The Angel of Courage, "Bringing a triumphant spirit, inspiration and courage". This, obviously, I gave to my dad. I believe in the power of prayer, the importance of diet and the effect that a positive outlook can have, but I believe mostly in courage and spirit. Courage to face the demon of disease, courage to be okay with things looking differently in life and the courage to press on. Dad loved his angel, and it sits, as it does in the above picture, on his beside table.

The Angel of Serenity was for mom and the quote said "Calm the soul, free the spirit". This angel jumped out at me first mostly because my mom loves the Serenity Prayer and I have grown into adulthood hearing it often.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The Courage to change the things I can,

and the wisdom to know the difference.

I've always loved the prayer and have turned to it many times in my own life. I also like the fact that the angel is kneeing, arms crossed. It shows a sense of submissiveness to life's twists and turns and a freeing of the spirit in order to "go with the flow". Something mom sometimes has a hard time doing. I felt no need to give her an angel of strength, or courage, or gusto because cancer has definitely showed me that she is strong enough for all of us. :)

After a huge dinner and lost of present unwrapping, Lucy enjoyed a nap with dad on his favorite chair. I love the relationship they have built and as silly as it sounds, it gives me a glimpse into what an amazing grandfather he will be!

My mom insists on getting the pets of the family gifts for the holidays as well. This is Lucy's and, needless to say, she hates it. It was slightly too big, but the hood was still tight and she refused to move in it. It was a great photo opportunity, but I think I will refrain from torturing her by making her wear it. :)

As I sit here on Christmas night, belly full and gifts still strewn around the living room, I am struck with how simple and unexpected the Christmas spirit can be. I found it in the generosity of co-workers, in the impact of a simple gift that speaks volumes, in the words "cancer free for now" and in the time spent with loved ones. This year was the first year since 2008, or maybe before, that I felt present, alive and happy. As I fall asleep in the room I grew up in, I will not be haunted by past mistakes or unfortunate changes in my life. I will smile and dream of the possibilities that lay ahead for all of us. Jobs, new adventures, spaces of our own and health. That is what the Christmas spirit is about, the hope of a better tomorrow and the kindness to help people get there.

Merry Christmas!